The conception of Life in Islam
Al-Azhar Magazine – March 1973
The basic principles of Islam are formed on the fact that this life is not a mere shade of the Hereafter or meaningless one. But Islam teaches man not only that all life is essentially a unity, it also shows the practical way how a man can reach within the limits of his individual earthly life, the supreme goal of his life. To attain this goal, he is neither compelled renounce the worldly life, nor austerities are required, nor is pressure exerted upon the mind to believe in comprehensible dogmas.
Islam does not call upon its followers to retire either in despair or disgust from the society of their fellow men, seeking consolation in the lonely places or gloomy forests. Nor does it call upon immerse in materialism, but it is a well balanced and organised code of life. In the very essence of his creation, man is but a curious blending of the mortal and the spiritual. Such being the nature blessed the mankind with a religion which leads them to the path of perfection and salvation in the spiritual and the material aspects of life.
In the teachings of Islam, both these aspects are not only reconciled to each other in sense that there is no inherent conflict between the bodily and the moral existence of man, but the fact of their co-existence is insisted upon as the natural basis of life. The essential greatness of Islam lies in its being a religion eminently suited to the requirements of man’s daily life on this earth. Islam neither ignores the limitations and imperfections of mankind, nor does it stoop down to the level of encouraging what is mean ignoble. It takes full notice of the original tendencies in human nature, and tries to build upon them a code of life that succeeds in retaining its highly elevating character. This thoroughly practicable code opens to one a peculiar and new vista on the possibilities of human society being organised with a minimum of internal conflicts and a maximum of real brotherly feeling.
If the principles and the teachings of the code of Islam and are carefully examined we can find all its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other. Nothing is super flues and nothing is lacking, with the result of an absolute balance and solid composite while Islam teaches that all life is essentially a unity, it also shows man the practical way how he can produce within the limits of his individual, earthly life, the unity of ideas and actions both in his existence and in his consciousness.
Islam is simply a programme of life according to the laws of nature which God had decreed upon his creation. Its supreme achievement is the complete coordination of the spiritual and the material aspects of human life. Islam allows man a very wide margin in his personal and social existence, so that the various qualities, temperaments and psychological inclinations of the different individuals may find the way to positive development according to their individual predisposition. Islam does not debar anyone from acquiring wealth through fair and honest means. He must shape personal and social life to the laws decreed by God. His duty is to make the best of himself, in order that he may honour the life gift which his Creator has bestowed upon him. He also is asked to help his fellow – beings, in their spiritual, social and material endeavours, by means of his own development.
The concept of worship in Islam is not restricted to the purely devotional practices, but it extends over the whole of man’s practical life. In this regard of the Holy Quran says:
قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ (١) ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ فِى صَلَاتِہِمۡ خَـٰشِعُونَ (٢) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَنِ ٱللَّغۡوِ مُعۡرِضُونَ (٣) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ
لِلزَّكَوٰةِ فَـٰعِلُونَ (٤) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِفُرُوجِهِمۡ حَـٰفِظُونَ (٥) إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزۡوَٲجِهِمۡ أَوۡ مَا مَلَكَتۡ أَيۡمَـٰنُہُمۡ فَإِنَّہُمۡ غَيۡرُ مَلُومِينَ
(٦) فَمَنِ ٱبۡتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٲلِكَ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡعَادُونَ (٧) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِأَمَـٰنَـٰتِهِمۡ وَعَهۡدِهِمۡ رَٲعُونَ (٨) وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَلَىٰ
لَوَٲتِہِمۡ يُحَافِظُونَ (٩)أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡوَٲرِثُونَ (١٠) ٱلَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ ٱلۡفِرۡدَوۡسَ هُمۡ فِيہَا خَـٰلِدُونَ (١١)
(Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers, And who shun vain conversation. And who are payers of the poor-due. And who guard their modesty. Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy. But whoso craveth beyond that, such are transgressors. And who are keepers of their pledge and their covenant. And who pay heed to their prayers. These are the heirs who will inherit paradise, There they will abide. ) (23:1-11)
If we perform all our actions consciously, according the plan of the Creator, such actions are regarded as worship and constituted as part of the Divine Rule. The Islamic doctrine is that man is originally good and pure, but it is also implied that unbelief in God and lack of good actions destroy this original perfection and purity. As in the Holy Quran we are told:
لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ فِىٓ أَحۡسَنِ تَقۡوِيمٍ۬ (٤) ثُمَّ رَدَدۡنَـٰهُ أَسۡفَلَ سَـٰفِلِينَ (٥)إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ فَلَهُمۡ
جۡرٌ غَيۡرُ مَمۡنُونٍ۬ (٦)
(Surely We created man of the best stature. Then we reduced him to the lowest of the low, Save those who believe and do good works, and theirs is a reward unfailing.) (95:4-6)
Thus Islam is not only a spiritual attitude of mind adjustable to different settings, but a self sufficing orbit of cultural and a social system of clearly defined nature. It is emphatic in the assertion that man can reach perfection in his earthly, individual life by making full use of his life. In this way Islam gives this life the status of a self contained and positive entity.
The Almighty and All-Wise Creator must have a purpose behind His creation of the Universe. It also follows that the Almighty Creator will not have created the mankind without a purpose. Not only that the doctrine of purposeful creation is applied to man in a special way. The Lord who has Created, Cherished, Nourished and Fashioned man through many stages and forms will not leave him without a purpose or aim. The Holy Quran says:
أَيَحۡسَبُ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ أَن يُتۡرَكَ سُدًى
(Does man think that he will be left aimless?) (75:36)
So everything the universe is subject to a particular law and order and part of a well ordered system. There is nothing without beneficient and good reason. The Holy Quran refers to this ultimate purpose as follows:
خَلَقَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضَ بِٱلۡحَقِّۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَأَيَةً۬ لِّلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ
(Allah created the heavens and the earth with truth. Lo! Therein is indeed a portent for believers)
Man, by his nature and by his position in the universe, is created for the Service of God. This service entitles him to be the agent of God in the earth and makes him the most noble in the sight of Him. This agency requires first of all that man should know his Lord in a real knowledge and his Guidance. There are the laws of nature and the laws of spiritual, all operating in their respective spheres. But they all proceed from God and are consistent with and complementary to each other.
There is no conflict between the laws of the nature and the Divine revealed from God to his Messengers and Prophets for mankind. The following Quranic verse has dealt fully with the real concept of life, in all its dimensions and is all its various activities:
(So set thy purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright – the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He hath created man. There is no altering (the laws of) Allah’s creation. That is the right religion, but most men know no) (30:30)
We have seen in this verse that the true religion is to follow man’s original nature. A complete guidance has been provided, by the All-Wise Creator, for the regulation of human life in all circumstances. That is the greatest manifestation of God’s beneficence. He is the Creator of the universe and is Guardian over all things, and the light of the heavens and the earth. There is but one true path, the universal path of all mankind.
That is the path of Divine Guidance in all walks of life. This guidance is alike for all, without distinction of race colour, country or nationality.
We have been taught that the purpose of man’s life is that he should become the agent of God on earth and a manifestation of His attributes. God has endowed man with the best and most appropriate faculties for the achievement of that purpose. He has constrained to man’s service the heavens and the earth and all that is in the universe to help him achieve the purpose of his creation. This universe is bound by law and operates in accordance therewith. This certainty is the basis of all knowledge and research.
We thus find that the universe has been constrained to the service of man to help him achieve the purpose of life, which is that man should become a manifestation of God’s attributes. This concept would help us to realise how great a bounty of God is life, and how immense is the trust committed to man has been created in the image of God. This idea is expressed in the above Quranic verse – the nature (framed) of Allah in which He has created and (fashioned) man – that is to say that man has been created pure and free from any deviation from the upright path. So, evil comes in his life from outside of his true nature, through his neglect or default, but it is possible for him through sincere repentance to retrace his course and win back to purity and righteousness.
Thus, Islam reminded man that he is the purposeful product of God. He is not that product of chance. It also taught that man has a guided destiny in this life and hereafter.